Are we at a breaking point in the justice system?

Letters to the Editor

Are we at a breaking point in the justice system?

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

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Dear Editor,

In recent times the justice system has come into sharp focus as more stories of delayed justice and injustices are reported almost daily in the media. In addition to the cases of the mentally ill who have been lost in the system for over 40 years without any chance to access their trials, there have also been stories of matters that have dragged out in the courts for a very long time and of judgements that have not been completed by retiring judges. Some cases see appeals delayed above the combined sentence.

There can be no doubt that we are in desperate need of a more efficient and effective justice system. Our justice system is under stress resulting in the significant delays in the system. While some improvements have been made, Jamaica's justice system remains challenged. The deficiencies of the courts and other institutions point to a systemic failure that is playing out in the cases we are currently witnessing.

Many Jamaicans have lost confidence in the justice system. Most of the injustice cases are related to poor people — highlighting that the class people belong to makes a striking difference to the level of treatment they receive. The human toll of the broken system is appalling, contributing to creating injustice while accountability remains a dream. For poor people trapped and brutalised in the system, protection or redress is ignored.

With the increased funding and efforts at modernisation in the justice system, it boggles the mind as to why the system continues to be dysfunctional in many instances. Is it that the justice system in Jamaica is broken beyond repair?

Unfortunately, it seems that the long-standing failures of the system have desensitised some of those working in the system who may feel that systemic abuse is to be considered as routine.

What is also concerning is that some who have been fighting to bring about a change are often victimised. As these lawyers and other individuals continue to fight for justice, the human rights of Jamaicans are being violated in some of the most blatant ways.

A justice system which continues to treat its vulnerable citizens like this will not only lose its legitimacy, but will also reach a breaking point.

Carla Gullotta

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